Dungeons of the Hood

In the sprawling habitat, one is likely to run into a half-demolished house whose roof has had asbestos or corrugated iron sheets removed as nearby, a gathering of imbibers listen to some loud music seated on animal skin stools, blocks or disused buckets turned upside down.

It does not really matter where one sits as long as they are part of the unfolding scenario. Lazzo looking just like a ‘cog in the wheel’ Lazzo finds his way into the dingy room and sees the new version of the ‘shebeen queen’ standing beside crates of pre-packed opaque brew.

She has graduated from the hard-home made gin popularly known as ‘Kachasu’ seemingly keeping abreast of the times. Maria’s mother has pushed the distillation equipment of yesteryear into the backyard.

When Lazzo goes to the pit latrine behind the house, he could see the distillation kit gathering rust over the years as a new dispensation sets in. But further down the road, her mate is still hellbent on

harnessing her clients the old way.

There seems to be an unceasing stream of revellers of various shapes and character converging on the area that smacks of merry-making and incessant chatter.

Here, the grapevine looms larger than real life it seems because one can get tips and bits of who has done what in the hood!

The woman of the house hands Lazzo a sachet of opaque brew as he joins a cluster of other partakers of the celebrated drink seated in a rather helter-skelter fashion leaving the centre empty. It is a rotund formation reminding one of a meeting place.

It’s a communal format here as one is expected to share their drink with others and in the process promote a sense of belonging. One of

Lazzo’s erstwhile mates thought the rule of thumb style of drink was designed to share poverty.

This means that the ‘have nots’ feel embraced by the ‘haves’ and another mentor likened it to ‘drinking socialism’ which has been

practiced since time immemorial from the villages in the hinterland.

“I do not see Muzo these days, he seems to be a rare person here and sometimes I think that he has shifted to another place,” said a boy flaunting an usually big nose with rather sunken sockets that made him look like a small night owl.

The other young man was just emptying the brew from the sachet but listening intently, he lifted the disposable plastic cup and drank half of the contents.

As he put down the cup, he replied:”Muzo is on the run. He has been associating with a group of bad boys and ended up getting involved in a deal at the factory,” the imbiber said as he looked his mate in the eye continuing,” They hired a mini-bus and went to steal but as always happens, he was a novice and get caught while others run away but some of them are still inside,” he concluded satisfied he had ably delivered his communiqueacute.

Another man puffing away at a cigarette with a rather empty-headed look was pretending he had not heard anything and gave the impression that in the hood that such news was not new and life must continue.

Then he heard another story about a homeless man who shared a room with an ex-convict who later stole from him.

The guest did not know what hit him because one night, he came to their shack whose door one could see through from outside to be told by his housemate that ‘thieves’ had stolen clothes and bed linen.

The ex-convict’s guest could not believe this story as the hood by consensus told him that it was his housemate who had pilfered the goods including a suitcase.

The gathering was told that the ex-convict suggested that they go to a ‘witchdoctor’ to invoke the spirits and seek the return of stolen goods. To the guest’s amazement, the ex-convict explained his problem

in a language that the witchdoctor understood very well.

He had been given a powdered concoction to burn on a brazier and assured that the burglar would return the goods. Two days passed and nothing doing!

The guest soon realised that he had been duped and the household was merely buying time as all and sundry concluded that in fact, the stolen goods were by now sold.

Lazzo had wandered far and wide into the ‘hinterland’ of the hood as the level of drink had dwindled, he had to get out fast.

En route to his home, he passed through another dungeon where he also helped himself to another avalanche of drink as he found mates in the hood who seemed to be overwhelmed by a concoction which begins with a large pot of tea mixed with yeast.

This has proved to be very popular in the hood and one could deduce its acceptance especially by vast numbers of the younger generation not able to generate substantial income gracing the area which in effect is a house.

Many theories abound on the preparation of the concoction as some imbibers contend, there is much more than meets the eye apart from the usual catalyst for fermentation like sugar and yeast.

One man man with eyes that seemed to pop out of his head said:” This beer is too potent and I think that there are other things that these women add to it!,” said one man as he took a sip from a disposal cup which he held at a tilted angle as some of it spilt to the ground.

This was a sign the concoction was getting to his head! The ravages of the drink were numerous as one youth could not have the strength to enter his parents home and spent a night on the veranda till dawn in a drunken stupor!

Such incidents were understatements as one youth put a firecracker in a bottle and it exploded in his face but luckily, it was on the ground and the splinters of glass went sideways!

This was during the last annual festivities in the neighbourhood.

Lazzo finally sauntered home in the company of merry revellers as usual.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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